Around the world, books are losing ground to screens, but Portugal hasn’t received the memo. Lisbon is home to the oldest bookstore in the world and hosts the largest book fair in Portugal, which celebrates its 86th anniversary this year. Second-hand shops are springing up across the cities along with stores specializing in the sale of English-print books.
Ler Devager, a bookstore in Lisbon, Portugal | © Dominic Blewett / Alamy Stock Photo
Even renovated factories are fair game when opening a bookshop in Portugal. Ler Devagar (meaning ‘read slowly’) in the LX Factory is another of Portugal’s most aesthetically pleasing stores. It is located on a street filled with 19th-century factories that have been converted for artistic and culinary purposes. The Portuguese are known for their sweet tooth and this shop is another store and café, selling delicious cakes and pies along with their books.
Livraria Lello & Irmão
Shoppers browse at Livraria Lello | © Marcin Jamkowski/Adventure Pictures / Alamy Stock Photo
Not only is the Lello & Irmão Bookstore a fantastic place to buy books, but it’s also a great site to take beautiful photos as well as geek out on Harry Potter. The four euro entrance fee may seem a bit expensive when visiting in a group but it pays towards the books purchased.
Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art
A fountain within the park of the Serralves Contemporary Art Museum in Porto, Portugal | © Stuart Forster Europe / Alamy Stock Photo
The Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art has a bookstore and a library in the midst of the various art exhibits. Both attract visitors as much as the artwork. Located on the Serralves Estate, the museum is situated by gardens, a park, and the Art Deco estate home.
Cafe Candelabro is a cafe-bookshop in downtown Porto, Portugal | © Atlantico Press / Alamy Stock Photo
In Portugal, coffee and wine pairs with everything, including books. The Café Candelabro in Porto is a bookstore, library, and café all in one, that attracts everyone from tourists to locals.
The Literary Man Hotel
The Literary Man Obidos Hotel/ Dom João D´Ornelas, 2510-074 Óbidos, Portugal
There is even a hotel that’s filled from floor to ceiling with books! The Literary Man Hotel is located in Óbidos, a city known for well-preserved medieval infrastructure and cherry-flavored ginjinha liqueur, but which has also been labeled a ‘book lovers dream‘. Every spare inch of wall is covered, amounting to upwards of tens of thousands of titles. Hotels usually strive for that ‘home’ feel and the Literary Man has achieved that goal with this built-in library.
Santiago Calatrava designed the Oriente Station in Lisbon | © Stephane ROUSSEL / Alamy Stock Photo
Walk along the streets and even though the metro, and there are more books! Fairs are common in Portugal, and tables appear all over the place. Mostly, they sell second-hand copies, many for a euro or less. The Oriente Station is one metro stop with daily book fairs.
Bookshop Bivar — secondhand books in English in Lisbon!
Don’t worry about not being able to read Portuguese because it’s possible to find titles in English too. The Bookshop Bivar, outside Lisbon’s historic center, is one shop dedicated to selling second-hand books in English. It’s Lisbon’s own ‘Shop Around the Corner’ (remember You’ve Got Mail?), complete with the cozy setting and an owner who loves to chat with customers.
Photo of the Bertrand Bookstore, the oldest bookstore in the world (since 1732), Lisbon, Portugal | © Nicolas Lum / Alamy Stock Photo
Bibliophiles in Lisbon should not miss the Chiado neighborhood, home to Livraria Bertrand, the oldest bookstore in the world. Having first opened in 1732, it was destroyed by the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 and rebuilt a short time later in the spot where it can be found today. Across the street from Livraria Bertrand is a bronze Fernando Pessoa. Pessoa, the illustrious author of ‘The Book of Disquiet‘ was one of Portugal’s most celebrated writers and poets known worldwide. Visitors looking for a keepsake from any of these bookstores are in luck. Even Portugal’s history has inspired world-renowned literature, including ‘The Night Train to Lisbon‘. In this philosophical novel, the author takes readers on an adventure through Europe, language, and history. The book was so successful that it was adapted for the big screen nearly 10 years after being published.
Biblioteca Joanina, Portugal
The Joanina library in the University town of Coimbra, Portugal | © Peter Domican / Alamy Stock Photo
Portugal isn’t just home to one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world; it is also where travelers will find one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. Biblioteca Joanina in Coimbra offers a breathtaking display of academic works in addition to Baroque architecture and decor. The library belongs to the University of Coimbra, one of the oldest in the world. It displays a number of collections dating back centuries, nearly 400 years in some cases.